I finally found a little time to finalize the basic head-cover for the old Plumb hatchet, from the design I spoke about a couple of days ago (if you haven’t already, you can check it out here).
After amassing some leather stitching tools (while I got beginner versions of most items, I still got a couple of tools that someone that will only do this one time, could likely leave out of their purchase), I was really chomping at the bit to get on with completing the head-cover. As many likely know, I was also “on hold” as I needed to complete my Stitching Pony before I could really do any real stitching. With the Pony 95% complete (check the build out here, and the tools in my possession, I was only lacking some contact cement or rubber cement. This morning I picked up some of both, to see which worked better with leather stitching, but at the last moment I decided to try the first piece without either (I’d have to think our ancestors had to have done without any adhesives at one point or another).
I’d already used my Glen-Drake Tite-Mark around the edge of my leather blanks, to mark the sections where I planned to stitch and making a light scoring cut. This was before I picked up the stitching tools, which included the grooving tool that will certainly be my go-to on future leather projects. For this first one, the Tite-Mark worked just fine and the light cut provided a nice guide to follow when I created my stitching holes.
I used my Thonging tool (before working with this tool on my bench, I placed a piece of softwood down on top of the bench, and it was ONLY here that I used the Thonging tool on the leather) to create the stitching holes, and the first side of the head-cover went as close to flawlessly as I could imagine, while I used the three-chisel head and followed an overlapping pattern as I advanced. The only slight issue was when I came to the corner. I’d already planned in advance, to use the single-chisel head in the Thonging tool for the hole where it changes direction, so kept that in mind as I was getting closer to the corner with the wider head. There is obviously no way to overlap with the single-chisel, so the actual placement of the chisel, for that one hole was eye-balled to try and keep a consistent distance between holes.
Now it was time to create the stitching holes on the second side of the head-cover. After aligning the edges of the two side pieces as best as I could, with the side with the holes I just created facing up, I decided to try using the single-chisel head to go hole by hole, placed into a hole I previously created and drive it part way through the second side. The single-chisel head was easier to withdraw from the leather, so it made sense to use it while following my “pattern”. There were a few “almost” issues, actually more like true issues, when I decided to check progress before making it to the end of the piece. Even though I was holding both pieces down firmly, the two were sliding ever so slightly, likely when I struck the Thonging tool. So I went back and re-aligned, and used the three-chisel head to follow the holes on the first side. This was still with the first side on top of the second side. For some reason this retained the nice hole alignment better, and I started striking it so it completely pierced the second side. When I had retraced all of my holes, I took just the second side and flipped it over so the smooth side was up. I made one more pass with the three-chisel head, as the holes created while the two pieces were together were less obvious, and driving the chisel head through from the outside surface made it easier to see the holes for the stitching process.
To prepare for stitching, I again aligned the two sides, but this time I could use the holes rather than the edges as I did before, shifting the pieces slightly until I could sight through the holes of both pieces and see my light source. With the two sides in the proper orientation, I held them tightly while I slipped the two-piece unit into the jaws of my stitching pony, and tightened the wing-nut. I placed the pony/leather unit into the face vise on my bench, and applied enough pressure until it was secure.
I wasn’t exactly sure how much of the waxed thread I’d need to stitch this small project, but I was sure I didn’t want to run out part way through, so I decided to start with a piece approximately a yard long (36″). I based this on the distance from one end hole to the other, doubled that, and then added some extra as a cushion. I fed each end of the thread into a separate stitching needle, and following the guidance from associates at Tandy, twisted the loose end of the thread around the main part. At first this actually seemed to do a decent job of securing the thread, but after a few holes, I was working hard to prevent the thread from slipping out of the needles (which it actually did a handful of times, during the stitching). With this small project, I decided to just deal with it and finish, rather than spending extra time messing around to find a better way to lock the thread to the needles.
I like the look of leather pieces that were stitched using what is called a saddle stitch, so I decided I’d use that technique on this head-cover. Initially you feed one needle through the first hole (I could choose either end hole on this project) and pulling the thread lightly until there was an equal length on both sides of the leather. On the first actual stitch, the left needle is fed through the next hole and pulled so there is no slack in that side’s thread, and then the right needle is fed through the same hole as the left, from the opposite side. After taking up any slack from the right needle’s thread, you pull both threads from the needle end until taught. Each time the left needle is fed through the leather and all the slack is removed, I held that needle/thread with tension, back towards the previous hole in the leather, before taking the right needle so it passed the left’s taught thread and fed into the same hole as the left just went through. By using the same repeating technique, it creates what is a knot of sorts, which helps prevent unravelling, even if one section of thread is accidentally cut or damaged in the future.
When my stitching reached the corner of the piece, I loosened the nut on the stitching pony, repositioning the leather for stitching the other edge and retightened the nut. After repositioning the leather, I again pulled the two loose ends of the thread, to make sure no slack crept in while moving my piece. When I reached the last of the stitching holes, I worked my way back the opposite direction through the same holes, until I had re-stitched three holes. This helps lock the stitching so it should never come undone, by itself. I cut both loose threads so there was about 1/8″ of thread sticking out from the leather, on both sides of the last hole stitched, and with a small butane lighter, heated each end until they melted slightly and shrunk back to the leather surfaces. This only require a few moments of flame on each end, and by keeping the flame so it just reached the thread, the leather did not get scorched.
After removing the head-cover from my stitching pony, I was rather amazed how nice the stitching actually looked. I know, I’ll probably break my own arm, patting myself on the back. Haha. But seriously, I had fairly low expectations on this first try at hand stitching, so it was great to have such nice results.
I planned to use some rivets to provide some extra support at the corners, and I think I may give that a try in the next couple of days, if time allows. I also included a strap on my original design drawing, but I reassessed the direction of force it would apply, and have redrawn a couple of designs that I believe should work better. While I can still attach a strap at this point, in the future I think it would be wiser to attach the strap to the rear piece of the head-cover, before stitching the main pieces together. These are details that you learn, as you go through any work process, but something I’m glad to share as well.
Thank you, as always, for stopping by and checking out this article. Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions or comments, and I’ll answer as quickly as possible.
I’ve had this hardware for a number of months now, but as many of the regular readers probably know, I’ve just had too much on my plate to make it happen. I was stoked to have some time yesterday, so I got after it.
I like to reuse wood that might have some visual imperfections, as long as it is structurally sound, which fits this Moxon. The rear jaw is one that I’ve used in similar configurations for the last 10 years (at least), and was at one time attached to the wing of my SawStop, so has some wood missing where the bolts and washers sat. The front jaw was also pre-used, in my most-recent setup, and is plenty solid.
The threaded posts that come in the kit, require a 3/4″ hole, for the initial installation. Since both jaws already had holes through them for the Press Screws that I used previously, using my drill-press, I aligned my 3/4″ forstner bit with the center of the existing holes, and quickly removed the excess wood. Oh, I forgot to mention that the forstner I am using is one of the Colt MaxiCut bits that is the best that I have ever, ever, used, or even seen used. I first saw this brand of forstner bit used in a video by Christopher Schwarz, and it blew me away. Even though I know Chris and trusted his data, I couldn’t wrap my head around it until I actually bought and used one of the bits. It has to be the fastest cutting bit I’ve ever experienced, and it leaves what is close to a perfect surface. They are a bit pricy, compared to some of the other forstners out there, but this again is in the realm of “you get what you pay for”. The only caveat I want to include, is the fact that once you do begin using the Colt MaxiCut forstner bits, it is oh so painful to ever go back to using any of the other forstners out there. (Be warned!)
On the front jaw, the drilled holes are elongated somewhat, to allow the vise to hold pieces that are angled. Forstner bits are known to excel in this type of situation, where the bit is only contacting the wood in a portion of it’s diameter or arc. Caution: You should not attempt to drill with a normal twist- type bit, when the center point of the bit isn’t engaged, as they have a tendency to flex away from the side that is engaged, and can possibly snap. Also, this operation, even when using a forstner, is safest when using a drill-press and the work is properly secured to the table.
The instructions that come with the kit, diagram removing wood around the drilled holes, in the shape of a rectangle, to a depth of 13/16″ on the inside face. While I’m certain this works fine, I decided to instead create a fitted hexagonal hole (for the nut that faces towards the front jaw), which was just more of a personal preference. To start, I fed one of the threaded posts through each of the drilled holes, and tightened a nuts on each side of the rear jaw. I used one of my marking knives, to trace around each nut a couple of times, to make sure it was sufficiently deep to hold the edge of a chisel. One note, I worked around the nut in a clockwise direction, so any unintentional force I might inadvertently apply couldn’t accidentally loosen the nut and shift my scribed lines. After I was satisfied with the depth of the scribing, I followed around the nut with my .3mm mechanical pencil, in the scribed lines. Even though the lines were deep enough to grab the edge of the chisel, I still like to see the chisel is in place, before striking the chisel. The quick application of pencil lead, down into the scribe lines, helps.
After removing all of the hardware from the rear jaw, I placed it onto my bench, and found a chisel who’s width was slightly less than the length of one of the hexagonal legs, on the large nuts. It turned out this was one of the Japanese chisels I bought in Japan, on our trip in 2001. At the beginning of this process, I used a large wooden mallet to strike the chisel gently, establishing a deeper outline of the nut. I liked using the wooden mallet, since it had a fairly large hitting area, and I could place almost all of my focus on the chisels edge placement, while still knowing I’d get a solid strike on the chisel. After the outline was fairly deep, I shifted over to my Glen-Drake hammer, as it does a great job of applying a forceful and focused strike. After working my way around the outline a few times, I set the chisel bevel-up just inside the outline, and with the chisel about 15-degrees up from flat, gave it a solid strike. This removed an angled section of wood, from the outline, angling down towards the center hole, relieving some pressure against the outer wall. I worked my way around the outline again, and then with the chisel flipped so the bevel was now facing down, I drove the chisel into the waste, taking about 1/8″ bite. To clarify, I did this by moving the chisel’s tip across the layout area, over the drilled hole, and into the waste. This allowed me to remove a decent amount of waste, fairly quickly, but I tried to only remove a thickness equal to what I had severed, working vertical around the layout. I repeated this process, testing the nut every so often, to see how much to remove. As I got close, I used my Lie-Nielsen Large Router Plane with the bit set to the same depth, as the nut is thick. With this setting, and the cutting edge against the inside surface of the drilled hole, I moved the plane to slice until it cut all the way around. I shifted back to my chisel, to remove most of the scored wood. I found moving back and forth between the Router Plane and my chisel, provided a nice flat surface, inside the excised hole.
After re-installing all of the hardware onto the rear jaw, I tested to make sure the holes on the front jaw fit easily over the threaded posts. As it turned out, there was a very small variance, that impeded the outside jaw’s movement. I took out one of my Auriou rasps, that has a curved tip, like you’d use if making handles. This rasp has teeth that are 13 grain, which means it is two away from the least aggressive, as they run from 1 (most coarse and for use on rock) to 15 (finest). The size of the rasp’s blank was just a bit under 3/4″ in width, and the outside surface is curved to fit inside a circle, which was perfect for removing the excess material. The 13 grain was just perfect for this type of work, as it was extremely quick, yet left a wonderful surface. I tested using an old large Nicholson rattail file in between fittings, but this file was very slow, and hard to keep from making lots of ruts, rather than one flowing surface.
The last thing I planned to do, was create a stopped chamfer, and while I was at it, maybe try out some lambs-tongues. As this chamfer is to be 45-degrees, back from the front face, I just held a pencil a given length, and used my fingers to ride against the edge. I made the first mark on the upper section of the front jaw, and the second on the face section of the same. For the end point of the chamfer, I decided to cut into the board with my Lie-Nielsen Tapered Carcass handsaw tilted 30-45 degrees, so that each end cut was headed towards the center of the vise. For all of the remaining chamfer area, I cut down until I just reached the two marked lines, again using my handsaw. I made saw cuts between 1/2″ – 3/4″ intervals, between the two end cuts. To help prevent any splitting, I set my Glen-Drake Tite-Mark to match the drawn lines, and scored along the full length of both. Instead of just wailing on all of the little “mountains” left from the saw cuts, I again took the same Japanese chisel, and gave it a firm rap along the scored lines. When both lines were outlined, I changed the angle I was using the chisel, to approximately 45-degrees. A couple of firm raps from the upper line, and then the same from the lower, removed the majority of the material. I followed that up with a draw knife, and as I got close, shifted back to my amazing Japanese chisel. It was still paring wood with the best of them, and it’s size was easy to wield without any mallet or hammer. I pared back until I was getting a fairly consistent surface, and then shifted to my flat-soled Boggs spokeshave. Another great tool, that does its job so perfectly. When all of this was to the point I could live with, I used the same chisel (no sharpening between or during any of this hard work) to rough out a lamb’s-tongue at each end of the chamfer. This is purely decorative, but seems to add something extra to the overall look. I used a gouge turned upside down on a bit of the lamb’s-tongue, and then finished it up with a couple of Auriou rasps. I again used the 13-grain curved rasp, and followed up with the 15-grain modeler’s rasp. They aren’t perfect, but as this vise is for function, I didn’t mind testing the look, which I like!
With the front jaw fitting over the threaded posts, with no effort required, it was ready for the cast iron handles. Just slip an included washer over each post, before threading on the handle, and your Moxon vise is just about ready for action. Actually, you can certainly use it in this form, but the included leather for the inside face of the front board, will give the vise that “easy, yet firm” grab on your work. Without the leather, it seems to require a bit more pressure with the handles, which can mark your work, or if you use less pressure, the work might slip slightly. Overall, I’d suggest installing the included leather, and let the vise work at it’s peak ability. The suggested method, for applying the leather, is to use rubber cement. I already had some leather on the inside surface of the front jaw, so I have yet to install the included piece. When I do, I plan to apply a light coating to the area where the leather will sit, as well as to one side of the leather. After applying the leather to the jaw, place a piece of waxed paper over the leather, and using the vise’s holding capabilities, apply a light pressure. I’d leave the vise sit like this, until the glue had set, based on the manufacturer’s suggested information. Obviously, you can leave it a bit longer, if you so desire, to allow all of the bonding to occur. When ready, open the vise jaws and remove the waxed paper. Your Moxon vise is ready to take on the world!
Thanks to everyone that stopped by to read my article. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
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